Congregationalism - What is it, how does it work?

Not open for further replies.


Puritan Board Junior
I've done much study on presbyterianism, though I'm not familiar with congregationalism. I'm having trouble finding many resources on it. Some forms seem to be halfway between independency and presbyterianism. Independency is full autonomy with no obligation at all to outward associations and all such is strictly non-binding and voluntary, and in Presbyterianism the rule of elders in united congregations is binding and authoritative on all member congregations.

I understand that views will differ from denomination to denomination, but broadly speaking, here are some principles I see espoused:

- The congregation rules, and elders make no decisions apart from the consent of the congregation. An example being Matthew 18, "tell it to the church," meaning that such decisions as excommunication are not made apart from the whole congregation, and is not left solely to the elders. Also, 1 Cor 5 where the instruction to hand the man over to Satan is given to the whole congregation, and not only to the elders.
- Another variation, the congregation has the power of "emergency breaks." So, generally elder-led, but the congregation has authority to put a stop to things seriously out of order.
- It had been said to me that many of the congregationalist churches in Puritan times were a different kind of congregationalism than what we have today, and tended to be more elder-ruled than today. Details welcome.
- It doesn't sound like a congregationalist necessarily needs an outside association in order to be congregationalist if the principle is that the congregation shares in some level of rule.
- I could see a congregationalist that believes in some level of association saying that while in Acts 15 there is the gathering of congregations for decision-making, you might say that 1) the lay people had a hand in the decision, 2) the elders and apostles were more like facilitators, and 3) the decision was only binding because of the presence of the apostles.

Confirmations, corrections all welcome.

I'm not able to read a full book on the matter, but would just like to know some key arguments, passages, and perhaps receive a few good articles. Thank you much.
Not open for further replies.